12 March 2011

March-June, 2011 Calendar

March 12, 2011

Now that I’ve been thoroughly reabsorbed into life stateside, it is time to update this site with a report on current work.


Devant, my screendance, selected for inclusion in special screening at The Flea Theater in NYC. Click on link.

Photoformance: An Empathic Environment opens March 19 and runs until May 15 at U-M Museum of Art’s Project Gallery. I have created video projections in collaboration with Ernestine Ruben, and these will be cast onto two of the gallery’s walls and an undulating structure designed by Monica Ponce de Leon and composed of three arches fabricated out of a complex, interlocking mesh of translucent plastic. Click on link and Photoformance. See Review in AnnArbor.com  See video of closing night. 

A Free Man in Paris: Research in Action:  Wednesday, March 23, 4:30 pm; Helmut Stern Auditorium, UM Museum     of Art:  I share the results of my recent four-month stay in Paris at the Cité Internationale des Arts. Speaking over a streaming video of “screendances” created during my residency, I draw from this website’s Videojournal de Paris to ponder aspects of the creative process while under the influence of the City of Light. Cosponsored by the UM Department of Dance and UMMA. Click on link.

The Glue Factory Project 2011: Are We There Yet?  Once again, I join my colleague Beth Corning and a cast of over-60 dancers in Pittsburgh for a new performance work. Click on link. See review here.

Society of Dance History Scholars I have been invited for my second year to present at this year’s conference, entitled Dance Dramaturgy: Catalyst, Perspective and Memory. Click on SDHS link. An excerpt from my paper-in-progress:

Dance Dramaturgy and the Inheritors of American Modern DanceA Place at the Table?

A Paper for the Society of Dance History Scholars Conference 2011: Dance Dramaturgy: Catalyst, Perspective and Memory          —Peter Sparling

If a dance dramaturg walks into a room of American dance company artistic directors, dancers, and dance presenters, 9 out of 10 of them will not recognize her, much less know what she does. This may be different among dance professionals in Northern Europe, where traditions of tanz/theatre and the embodiment of ideas and polemics frequently merge for the stage in the collaborative work of choreographer and dramaturg. But my research shows that the leaders and shapers of most of today’s American Modern dance legacies do not know what dance dramaturgy is, or they have invented their own versions. For the most part, they distrust anything outside the immediate line of inheritance of the original maker’s company lineage. Most American choreographers are expected to be their own theoreticians, cultural explorers and researchers. This is their inheritance. For restagings, reconstructions and licensing, associate directors, regisseurs and occasionally labanotators fill the role of imparting the precious insider information to new casts. They and their licensing departments develop toolkits for reconstructions, often filled with prime dramaturgical material either disparately patched together or expensively digitized and archived.  For new works, American choreographers may collaborate with other artists, but rarely do they call them dramaturges. Or they engage in the “I’ word, interdisciplinarity.

 Presenters, scholars and colleges and universities have begun to work more closely with companies to re-draw boundaries or battle lines between a living, embodied dance history and the disembodied historical. This is still a far cry from the European tradition of dance dramaturg described by Andre Lepecki as “privileged interlocutor” capable of provoking metaphorical explosions, not only the outside source of information or external eye for the choreographer but a deeply embedded, embodied presence in the creative process.

 Rather than dwell on these dividing lines or argue over definitions of the relatively new (and largely unfamiliar) phenomenon of dance dramaturgy, I would instead like to report on the ongoing efforts of a cohort of colleagues to build a network of information, historical perspective and body knowledge for sustaining our American modern dance legacies. I will begin and end with a question: Does a particular breed of dance dramaturg emerge who takes on the task of bridging archival preservation with building legacy, positioning the dancer’s body knowledge at the essential center and source? Will he or she be able to work closely with the artistic director, regisseur, company archivist, and presenter, to together creatively re-imagine modern dance into the cultural fabric of 21st century America?

Just in: Article in Michigan Muse on my stay in Paris here.